27 November 2009

Review: BEAUTIFUL LIES, Lisa Unger

This is another of the reviews I wrote 3 years ago, and had posted elsewhere.

Bantam/Random House Australia, May 2006

The day thirty-plus Ridley Jones rescues a little boy from the path of an oncoming vehicle is the day her own life changes forever. When the initial flurry of media coverage dies down, and her photograph has been printed on the front page of a number of New York newspapers, Ridley is contacted by someone who thinks she is his daughter. Ridley already has parents. Her father is a well-respected semi-retired paediatrician, so who is this stranger?

To discover the truth Ridley is required to assess everything she knows about her life. She knows that she has not lacked for affection, security, and comfort. She also already knows that there are no family photos of her before her second birthday, and now she begins to view events in her life, and people she has been close to, in a new light. When the enigmatic Jake moves into the vacant apartment in her building, a new element complicates what is already a rather tangled web.

BEAUTIFUL LIES is not only a thriller, but also a mystery. The action unfolds through Ridley's eyes. The story is narrated for us, the readers, by Ridley. Sometimes she addresses us specifically, sometimes just uses first person narration. It is an interesting tactic as it seems as if we are being asked to make our own judgements of the connections in this tightly woven plot. At the same time in BEAUTIFUL LIES there is underlying serious social comment as the author questions whether it is ever right to take children away from their natural parents, of whether philanthropy ever achieves a better world, of whether lies are ever justified.

I enjoyed the pace and puzzles of this well crafted tale. It is not hard to feel the tension as Ridley finds out things she would rather not know.

BEAUTIFUL LIES marked Lisa Unger's debut as an author, and already (2009) she has written 3 more novels. Be sure to take the BEAUTIFUL LIES Walking Tour on Lisa's website. Lisa takes the visitor to 9 locations in New York City, commenting on her own and Ridley's experiences of the city, as well as reading snippets from the book. If you are thinking about reading BEAUTIFUL LIES, you may be interested in Random House's reading guide.

My rating at the time: 4.7

Earlier this year I reviewed BLACK OUT, saying "This was an extraordinary book: very provocative in its exploration of how a person with a dissociative disorder may see the world. Looking at it as a thriller, I did find that some of the events stretched the bounds of credibility."


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this review. I'm always really interested when authors explore questions of identity, and this one sounds compelling. Addressing the reader directly is also a fascinating approach. Thanks for sharing.

Maxine Clarke said...

Excellent review, Kerrie. Normally a review like this, by you (a reviewer I trust 100 per cent!) woudl make me want to read the book. However, I did quite recently read a book by this author(Black Out, I think) that I thought was awful. I did manage to get to the end of it but could not face reviewing it. At the time, I thought "never again" having womanfully struggled to the end of this farrago.


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